By Chris Schulz
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO –
It’s just before 8 p.m. when we arrive at Iniciativa Comunitaria in the Rio Piedras neighborhood of San Juan.
Every Friday night, Iniciativa conducts Operación Compasión, a nighttime round to serve the local homeless population by providing food, coffee, juice, condoms, clothes, hygiene kits and needle exchange, among other things.
Each week a different member of the organization leads the outreach. Tonight the leader is Emanuel Rivera, a young public health professional, accompanied by his brother Kenneth. Emanuel is already a veteran of the rounds, but this is 17-year-old Kenneth’s first time volunteering. Ivan Figueroa, a local pharmacist who is helping set up but will not join us on the rounds, briefs us about what to expect and what to do while Emmanuel prepares the coffee and juice. Continue reading
By Grace Austin
The Poet’s Passage is an arts and spoken word café in Old San Juan. It brings together local artists and visitors to listen, socialize, work, and buy goods with inspirational poetry emblazed on them. Owner Lady Lee Andrews prides herself on creating an arts space that continues to make money, even after 10 years, disproving the “starving artist” myth. Andrews also says The Poet’s Passage is a place for those who feel misunderstood to express themselves.
Dario Irizarry performs music and describes memories of his time in India. (Grace Austin/MEDILL)
By Nikita Mandhani
La Perla is an old neighborhood just outside the northern historic city wall of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Stretching about 600 meters along the Caribbean Sea, the neighborhood is tucked between Calle Norzagaray and Fort San Cristobal.
La Perla has been an infamous neighborhood since its early days. In the 19th century, it was the site of a slaughterhouse and home to people — slaves, the homeless and non-white servants — who were required to live outside the city walls.
La Perla’s dwellings were among the first homes built on the waterfront. Today the seaside around Old San Juan is largely home to beautiful restaurants, walkways and hotels catering to tourists, but the hard scrabble neighborhood of La Perla continues to occupy some of the island’s most spectacular coast.
Continue reading La Perla: Vibrant San Juan neighborhood emerges from checkered reputation
By Rebekah Frumkin and Hannah Rank
LA PERLA, Puerto Rico — It’s a sunny February morning in La Perla, a low-income neighborhood beside Old San Juan’s northern city wall. Lifelong resident Lourdes López-Rivera stands on a beachside cliff, considering the Caribbean’s cyan expanse.
“They keep talking about development here,” she says, shaking her head. “Then we’ll have to move.”